Landlords Repairs and Obligations – A Warning for Tenants
The case of Gavin and Another –v- Community Housing Association Ltd  EWCA. CIV 580, Court of Appeal Decision gives a warning to Tenants in respect of the extent of the Landlords’ repairing obligations under a lease.
The case concerned a lease which was silent on the responsibility the Landlord had for repairs to the retained parts of the property.
The Tenant’s claim against the Landlord concerned losses which it had sustained due to damage by water leaks and leaks from the soil pipes in the building. The damage was repaired using insurance proceeds. The Tenant claimed damages in respect of losses caused to the business as a result of the interruption which resulted from the leaks.
The Landlord argued that it had no liability to the Tenant other then reimbursing the insurance proceeds to repair the damage which had been done.
The ruling at first instance had been: –
- The Landlord was under a duty to remedy any defects in the retained premises that would case damage to the demised premises.
- The scope of the duty was reasonable care to remedy the defects that the Landlord knew had been caused or likely to cause damage to the demised premises.
- The duty of the Landlord arose once he was aware that damage had been caused
The Tenant appealed and he was not satisfied that the Judge had held the Landlord’s liability to be limited in negligence alone and depended on the Landlord having noticed the defect and a reasonable opportunity to remedy it. Further, the Tenant maintained that the Landlord was under an absolute duty under an implied obligation in the lease.
The Landlord cross appealed that there should be no duty implied if the lease provided a comprehensive scheme for the Landlord to insure the layout of the insurance monies.
It is worth noting that the Tenant had the lease of the ground floor and basement. The demise included the internal plaster, ceiling and floor coverings, the doors and windows and all conduits within the demise premises. The Landlord retained the structure of the building, including the soil pipes at the rear of the building that served the residential flats on the floors above the demised premises.
The lease contained no covenant requiring the Landlord to repair the parts of the building retained by them. The Landlord was required to insure the demised premises and the retained parts but that was all in respect of the expressed obligations. There was a clause which suspended payments if the demised premises or any part of them were damaged by an insured risk so as to be unfit for occupational use by the Tenant.
In allowing the Landlord’s appeal and dismissing the Tenants appeal, the Court of Appeal concluded the Landlord had no duty to repair the retained parts. In this case the Landlord was not under an express obligation to repair, but the lease did contain a comprehensive code for dealing with repairs to the retained parts through the insurance provisions.
From a Tenant’s point of view, the case emphasizes how important it is that the lease provides for who is responsible for repairing the various parts of the buildings. Landlords will conversely obtain a measure of comfort from the case. The Courts have made it clear that they would not consider a term should be implied into a lease requiring the Landlords to repair the retained parts of the property where other provision has been made.